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Difficult Hieroglyphs And Unreadable Demotic? How The Ancient Egyptians Dealt With The Complexities Of Their Script

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Chapter Summary

Whenever Ancient Egypt is evoked, people associate it, among other things, with the hieroglyphic writing system. By its visual impression, it has a strong allure mixed, however, with some sort of reluctance. 'Can you really read this?' is a typical question posed to an egyptologist - as if this was far from self-evident. The very nature of the hieroglyphic signs fosters a common misconception. The writing is taken to be pictographic, and more specifically to be based on the direct pictorial value of the depicted objects. This is hardly an adequate model, even if there is a logical nexus between the depicted object and its value as a sign. Scholars distinguish two different sorts of cursive writing in Egypt, namely hieratic and demotic. In cursive writing, some ambiguity is always created by the very process of simplification, which leads to originally different sign-forms becoming similar or even identical.

Keywords: Ancient Egypt; cursive writing; demotic; hieratic; hieroglyphic



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